Wrangler Dani

Writer, editor, marketer and communication strategist. I'm also a wife, mama, hiker, cowgirl and experimental cook living in beautiful Central Oregon.

Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

June 11th, 2017 by Dani

I want to be spilling over with a good story

I want to be the kind of mom who spills over with laughter when my toddler dumps out my eyeshadow on the carpet or I find teeth marks in my deodorant. (Both happened this morning before church.)

Today, instead of laughing, I felt my voice getting dangerously low. “Everyone out,” I said with the barest semblance of holding it together, as though just by controlling the volume of my voice I could also control the emotion behind it. “NOW.”

Then, I spilled over with something else: I cried. I cried on the way to church. I cried in church. I cried after church.

I want to be the mom who laughs, and today I was the mom who cried. I’m embarrassed by my anger, my frustration and my feelings. I don’t want to be angry with my toddler for being a toddler or my husband for being a man or my dog for being a dog (she dug up the yard today; I’m not ready to talk about it). I want to be the joyful mom who serves her family with a smile, not by force. I want good stories to spill out of me.

I am a force-of-will kind of girl, which is great when there’s a fight to win or a disaster to avert, but is less awesome when the fight is an hourly exercise in self-control. I’d like to scale walls, not count to 10 to keep from saying something I shouldn’t.

So today I prayed a sobby prayer: “Lord, give me grace. Give me joy. Let me spill over with goodness and not frustration. Let me serve without keeping score.”

Pastor Steve’s message today was about telling our stories, to remember what God has done for us and for past generations, which is why I am publicly telling you about my private failure. Because I am believing that it is possible for me to spill over with goodness and joy. I believe that I can laugh at the ingestion of hygiene products and the holes in my flower beds. I believe that motherhood is the greatest gift and that I can share my story of motherhood and marriage and adoption even when I feel so very unqualified to do so.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, a reminder to tell even the hard stories, because someday I will look back and say, “remember when I used to get so upset about our dug-up backyard/my lost earring/the dishes in the sink?” and laugh. Because the goodness of a faithful God reminds me that he granted us the backyard in the house that we prayed for, with a fence for our rowdy dog and kids, with beautiful green grass and flower beds which are not ruined because of one misplaced dog-bone. His story is one of faithfulness and redemption, as he gave us our beautiful Adelay Joy through adoption and is allowing us the privilege of adopting again. He brings joy because earrings, makeup and other items I lose are just things, after all, replaceable and not invaluable, unlike my relationships. He shows me that doing one sink-full of dishes while dancing is far better than three loads in silent frustration; that my kids, friends and husband will remember my joy and not how clean our home was.

I want to be the mom, wife and friend who laughs at silly things and holds fast to good things. I am believing that our faithful God will answer my prayer and give me strength when mine fails. He is good. My life is good. I want to spill over with that story – his good story.

Addy and I.

I also have to include this photo, taken by our friend Marco after church. Even when I am not at my best, Addy puts her arms around my neck and wants my comfort and safety. I want to be worthy of her trust, and show her how to encounter a challenging world with grace – that is another God-story in itself.

June 6th, 2017 by Dani

We’re Fundraising for Adoption Expedition #2

I sat down to write to you about fundraising, but it’s been a very hard letter to write. The truth is that it’s hard to ask for help. We all know the people who are quite good at it (maybe too good, perennial students and travelers come to mind) or quite bad (most of us raised with stiff upper lip sensibilities do everything on our own and like it that way).

But we know that asking for help is really important. It resets our hearts and reminds us that we are not all-powerful, as well as modeling humility and kindness for our daughter. I shared about how amazing it was to get help in the form of garage sale bargains and kindness of strangers, and the love, time and prayers of so many of our friends and family is as valuable as any monetary gift we could receive.

We used to go to a pretty affluent church which insisted that all missionaries, short or long-term, ask for support, even if they could have funded their work themselves. Because even when it seems like a noble thing to bootstrap one’s own mission trip, for an executive who’s bootstrapped everything he’s ever done, it’s actually the easier route. What builds his faith is letting his neighbor donate $100 and asking his high schoolers to help him put on a car wash. Asking invites community into this endeavor; lives are changed when hundreds of people get to be part of the story, instead of one person doing it alone.

So in our family, we’ve made a choice to live with open hands and open hearts. Sometimes, when I feel hurt or vulnerable, I wonder if it’s really wise to have an open door policy to our home and our story. But we believe God has called us to love publicly, and to tell of the faithfulness of God with arms outstretched, welcoming others into it.

So, we’re asking for help, again, as we venture into Adoption #2. We ask because we know that we can’t do this alone – monetarily, emotionally or spiritually. The average domestic infant adoption costs between $20,000-$50,000. We dare to believe that these children are infinitely more valuable even than these hefty price tags, that no one can put a price on love, faithfulness or grace.

Please give if you would like to, and feel free to share the link. We’ve made a tax-deductible website here for gifts and we are so grateful for any help you can offer. We also know that we can’t do this without our tribe of encouragers, prayer warriors, mentors and friends so we covet your advice, prayers, hugs, visits and hope.

Thank you for being our people. We have long prayed for a house full of children and a community that shows extravagant love for the least of these, and we are blessed beyond measure to watch that prayer come true, year after year.

May 25th, 2017 by Dani

What Love Looks Like

For weeks, we’ve been collecting clothes, toys, furniture and other sundries from friends. They’ve come over with moving vans and pickup trucks, minivans and sensible Hondas, delivering the treasures of last year or last decade to our door. We drove around our county to pick up items, always with a grateful heart.

Once I started to feel overwhelmed by the stuff of other people’s lives, we started taking trips to our garage sale site, Josh and Kate’s new home. We filled the garage, the carport, and the living room. I apologized a lot for taking over their lives, but they are nice and didn’t seem to mind. Kate knows a professional sign maker and got printed signs donated, that said “Adoption Fundraiser Sale” in big black and red letters.

Two nights before the sale, Adam was up almost all night for work. Adelay was fussy, I was tired. We hadn’t had dinner together for a few nights and I was feeling hungry for more than food. We needed a break but one wasn’t coming – we had a sale to run. The night before, Adam made several trips with sale items in the pickup, we ate dinner at 10 pm, Josh and Kate went out late at night to hang signs. I felt overwhelmed and maybe a little defeated. I wondered if we were crazy to go through this again, if we were being unfair to our kind friends, if maybe we’d overstepped this whole “live out loud” thing once and for all.

But do you know what love looks like? I can tell you.

Love looks like undeserved favor. Love looks like friends who laugh at your apologies and cheerfully work for your cause, because they have taken it on as their own. Love looks like a beautiful summer morning sunrise that you are ready for, despite four hours of sleep. Love looks like friends who dropped off more sale items, even as the sale was in progress, who came by with baked goods for the bake sale and hugs and cheerfulness for us.

One woman made a small pile of flower pots and a sundial, and asked, “What do you want for this?”

We’d sold so many things and there was something about her that seemed hungry for kindness, so I said, “Whatever you want to pay.”

She sighed and shook her head, “You’re very generous, but I can’t do that today. Just tell me what you want.”

I quickly smiled and offered a small amount, $5 or something. She followed up by asking me what we were adopting. I laughed and told her a baby. “We’re already adoptive parents and we’re adopting again,” I explained.

Her entire face changed. She looked at the ground, and seemed to be trying to collect herself. Then she handed me a crumpled $20 bill. “Good luck,” she said, and she started to cry. I reflexively gave her a hug and she quickly turned away with her items, I could see tears coming out from behind her sunglasses.

Love looks like letting your story out into the world. Love looks like the hugs I got from strangers who are also adopting, who gave us more than we asked, who are adopted themselves. Love looks like giving people a chance to share in a beautiful life-changing story, one that is just beginning to unfold, and could not be told without them. Love looks like friends who donate, bake, and give of their company and courage. Love looks like a toddler happily playing with safe adults, secure in the knowledge that her tribe is there for her and baby brother or sister. Love looks like the countless texts and calls we got from out of town friends and family to ask us how it was going and how they can help.

Love looks like $2497.84 being raised in a single weekend, selling $1 flowerpots and baby onesies for 50 cents. This is what love looks like.

April 11th, 2017 by Dani

Adoption Expedition #2

The other night I held my friends’ beautiful baby boy, adopted in a whirlwind just as my baby was, supported and surrounded by love before we even knew his name.

I remember when I didn’t really want to be a mom, at least not enough to work for it. I remember when that changed, when the ache to be a mom hurt so badly that I thought my heart was shriveling up inside of me – little did I know it was actually growing in size and courage. I remember when holding my friends’ babies felt like working out – good but hard.

We are adopting again, and I’m often asked why. (I know it’s a funny question, but we get it a lot.) Here is my “why” – I remember the heartache of the first time through, and I remember how much faith we needed, how much support and love we got, how many miracles happened, and I know that the God who brought us here is not done with us yet.

Now my days are filled with a silly singing toddler. I buy fruit snacks and milk, goldfish crackers and red grapes. I have to find babysitters, yes, and sometimes I look back my good old days of “free time” with something like lust.

But I know what unabashed joy looks like. I have lived through mercy and I’ve seen redemption first-hand. I know that the valleys are not as endless as they seem and that the future will hold dark times, yes, but it also holds oh-so-much laughter and grace. Scary things will come, but so will beauty and chunky baby thighs and silly toddler faces and open highways and daffodils and grilled cheese sandwiches.

We are risking again, adopting again because adoption is beautiful and we believe in beautiful. We are grateful people who have walked heart-broken long enough to know that that the dark nights never last longer than dawn. We know that the dawn is always worth waiting for, that every sunrise is a gift, that our life is but a breath. So we are drawing in and breathing out with courage and hope, knowing that God loves our family too, that he is planning this second expedition with as much care and kindness as he did the first.

This week I had three people tell me that Adelay and I have the same crinkly-nosed laugh. I hope that’s true, and I hope that our family continues to leave a legacy of laughter and hope and beauty. Thank you for supporting us as we embark on Adoption Expedition #2!

January 17th, 2017 by Dani

Writing What I Need to Hear

I usually write what I need to hear. I write about gratitude because I am so often whiny, redemption because I need it, creativity because I feel stuck, family because I know it’s important. As I write about these things, they usually come around as an encouragement to my own heart.

So I was asked to write a couple of stories this month for our local paper’s Special Projects – one on girls night out places and one on casserole/freezer meals. I’m writing about hospitality and care and friendship, warmth and long conversations and shared experience. This, friends, is what I need.

I love being a mom more than I have loved any other role I’ve ever had, but it is lonely. The hours I used to spend with a friend on a hiking trail or with my husband at a restaurant are now spent at home, chasing a toddler. We’ve had nearly six weeks of snow which means it’s hard to even get out the driveway, adding to my cabin fever. Addy won’t go to childcare and is really clinging to me – it’s the most profound feeling of love and dependence and yet I’d really like to work out or talk to a friend or get work done sometimes.

I am not complaining. This is just real life. Real life is messy and sometimes boring and sometimes lonely. Real life means that I have to put myself aside. It’s a precious burden God has given to moms, and one that we too often complain about or diminish. But here’s the kicker – we can’t do hard things alone.

A few weeks ago when we were flying back home from Texas, we were headed through TSA. They’d inexplicably changed the stroller regulations from the other bazillion times we’ve flown, and wouldn’t let us bring our stroller with us. So we were carrying two carry-ons each and a fussy toddler through a very crowded security check. I was snapped at for leaving my purse open on the belt and then the agent angrily grabbed Addy’s snack out of her hand. “She can’t have that!” As we stood at the end of the conveyor belt in our stocking feet, an agent start rifling through Addy’s backpack. “I have to check all of her toys,” she said, as Addy cried for her bottle and her baby doll and everything else that the agent was feeling up and placing on the counter. I lost it. By the time we were allowed to leave, I was sobbing and so was Addy. I was hungry, humiliated, frustrated and felt completely vulnerable. I stood outside the security checkpoint, struggling to get all of our things back into carry-ons and get Addy her snack, flustered, crying, as Adam tried to help. I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye, and, surprisingly, she came right up to me and gave me a hug. “It’s OK mama,” she said. “You’re doing good. You’ve got this.” I wasn’t even able to process that I was being hugged by a complete stranger in an international airport – at that moment, she was the angel I needed, and I just sobbed.

She hugged me for a moment, then patted me on the shoulder and went to reunite with her husband and kids, as I sniffled and gathered up my things. I was embarrassed that a stranger had noticed my emotion (who wants to be the teary mom in the TSA line?) but more than anything, I wanted to be her. I don’t know if she is always that forward with strangers in need, or if God just moved her heart at that moment, but I want to be like that.

Friends this is a hard season. I bet you are tired, no matter where you are right now – motherhood, wifehood, singleness, dating, working – life is tiring. I am tired. I don’t know how to get my baby to nap without laying on me. I am trying to figure out how to balance life and work and dreams and finances and motherhood and friendship and marriage. I need you, and maybe you need me, just as I needed that beautiful fellow mom in the Dallas airport.

Today I just want to tell you that you are doing good. You’ve got this. Even when you feel like you have screwed up for the last time or like you might get lost in your own mind (what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the “bad neighborhood” of your consciousness) I want to be there for you.

As always I am writing about the thing I need. I need friendship. I need intimacy and courage. I need to be in your corner, cheering you on, and I need you in mine. Maybe together we can change how this season feels. Maybe the harsh agent at the TSA line would change her tune if she saw us holding each other’s babies and carry-ons and giving hugs to strangers. Maybe this is how we change the world.

December 4th, 2016 by Dani

Keep Going!

Addy has a little walker that talks. She doesn’t use it much any more, unless I start talking about putting it away, in which case it becomes The Most Favorite Toy of All Time. Anyway, it talks when it senses movement, and it’s got a jumpy trigger finger, because said movement can be any person walking around the house, no matter how far away.

The other day, I walked by it and it chirped out “Keep going!” I laughed to myself and then thought, I need this little voice all the time.

Because I need to hear, “Keep going!” Because, and I’m being honest here,… is anyone else tired?

I used to get on Facebook for cute photos of my friends’ kids and puppies, and now I get on in fear and trembling that I will see another apoplectic political post. (I brave them for the pay-off of cute baby/puppy/Christmas tree photos but I’m just saying – it’s gotten a little hot out there.) I need reminders to keep going, that relationships are important and valuable, even when I’d rather check out and protect myself.

I need to hear “Keep going!” because all too often I hear the opposite. I hear that I’ll never be good enough or cute enough in Spandex, so I should quit going to yoga. I hear that I’ll never get a book deal, so I should stop writing. I hear that adoption is only a tragic choice and not a beautiful one. I hear that my choices for my kid is questionable, that my beliefs are silly, that my life is small and foolish.

At Christmastime, I hear that my love for this sparkly season is silly. I hear that my joy at big bows and perfect presents and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon are childish or materialistic, silly or thoughtless. But I do love Christmas, because it is the season of foolishness. It is the season of “Keep going!”, don’t you think?

It is a season when we should be awed and not calloused, when we embrace an infant Savior, an angel choir singing to dirty shepherds, a blazing star in the sky. I’m daring to believe that God sent Jesus to tell us “Keep going!” that we don’t have to do this alone, that we have Emmanuel, God with us. Every time I walk past that silly plastic talking toy, I’m going to thank my Creator for the gift of wisdom through a child’s toy, hope through tragedy, joy to the world when it feels like it’s falling apart. After all, he didn’t say “endurance to the world” or “clenched teeth to the world” or “anxiety to the world” – I’m going to believe that the God who came as a helpless baby into a wartorn, oppressed country isn’t too scared by the troubles of 2016, and that he meant for us to live in joy despite them.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all people!” JOY TO THE WORLD. Keep going!

November 16th, 2016 by Dani

Honesty and Love

I am a mother and a wife. I am created to love my child, my family, my friends. But that is not all I am.

I am also a writer. I’m a business owner. I’m passionate about adoption and hospitality.

Did you cringe when you read that? Does it seem self-serving for me to assert my talents here, as though I’m asking for validation?

It felt awkward to write it. I want to delete it, to tell you a cute story about how Addy is carrying around a baby doll everywhere she goes or how I need advice on what to do with my hair.

But the truth is, I am better at love when I am honest about who I am. A friend of mine and I were texting the other day and she said “there’s no time for chit-chat” and I wanted to run across town and hug her. Because there’s not, is there? We have only a few precious years on this earth and we dare to waste them on long conversations about the weather and the price of milk? No, heavens no.

Let’s be honest about who we are – who we were before we got married, or without our kids, or in spite of our job. Who are you and why are you here?

Only when we rip off the false humility and say the words “I am __________” can we give others the love we’re called to offer. You might be a warrior for the underdog, a hospitable helper, a creative soul, a joy-bringer, a thoughtful observer, a passionate pursuer of justice, a caretaker of the small and the weak. But you are not just an employee or a mother, only given worth by the people around you. You were not created to work 9-5 and collapse on the couch every evening. You are not just a wife or a girlfriend or a professional person. Don’t misunderstand – those are good things! But you are more than that. You are a mentor. You are an honest friend that we desperately need. You are created by an infinitely creative God to serve a purpose that no one else could possibly serve.

I’m mostly writing to myself and other moms, because we so often get lost in the massive needs of our family, but I think most women can relate. We are so relational that we lose ourselves without a outside sun to guide us – a job, a relationship, a family – and while that makes us hospitable, loving and nurturing, it can also leave us worn out, shallow and yearning.

Let’s quit the chit-chat. There just isn’t time for it, and frankly, it was never that fun anyway. Let’s embrace the creative, passionate, unique, hilarious and profound gifts God has given us – as we do, I think we’ll learn a new, deeper way to love.

February 9th, 2016 by Dani

Little life, big life

Everyone pre-kids is annoyed by other people’s kids. They’re clogging up Facebook with endless photos of stocking feet and chocolate grins, and our friends who used to talk to us about books and adventures and movies and politics now just tell us about the latest thing their cherub said, how he is sleeping/eating/pooping these days and what it’s like to not sleep. Trust me, I know.

I have swung wildly between yearning to be included in the parent conversations of my friends and then aching to talk about anything but kids and babies. Now, as a parent myself, I wonder: how do I include my childless friends in my now very child-filled life? What can I do to think of things that inspire me and move me, other than the wild adventure of motherhood?

Addy in Target

Here’s what I decided yesterday as I strolled through Target, unbelievably tickled with myself for trusting Adelay in the shopping cart seat and rediscovering the joy of walking without 21 lbs of wiggly kid on my chest. I decided that I will be delighted and grateful for every small moment – like walking through Target with my girl in the shopping cart seat – but I will never forget that while life is made up of small victories and little joys, that is not all life is.

I think we find ourselves in an abyss of chit-chat and thoughtlessness when we let ourselves believe that life’s little things are the only things. Somewhere along the way we realize that we wasted our years in idle gossip or mindless phone games, and that we are actually very lonely, bored and unfulfilled. Because while the friendly chat with a neighbor or the innocent grin of a child is truly lovely, we can get lost in those little moments and miss the big ones – we can miss the “why am I here” conversation, or the quiet meditation in our own hearts that leads us to new things. By focusing on the daily requirements of work, groceries, diapers, sleep, we can miss the larger requirement – that we allow our hearts to be fully alive. We have to dare to be creative – to take the long way home or read a challenging book or try a new recipe or brainstorm a new project. We have to dare to dream of five years from now, and let others in on those dreams. Of course, this is not limited to parenthood – surely non-parents also can coast through their days – but for me, I feel the war of stagnation and purpose in a way I haven’t before.

I do not like writing about this. I don’t like admitting that maybe I’ve been obtuse, that perhaps I’ve let a little laziness creep in to my thought life or heart life. So today I will be renewed by every grin from my beautiful girl. I will embrace the moment, be grateful for the home we’ve made and the life we have. But I will also let my mind wander. I will consider my dreams, and how I can make them real. I will talk to my friends and family about more than parenthood, and therefore showing Adelay how to dream as well.

Today I am relishing my small victories and little joys. Today I am dreaming big dreams and daring to embrace new adventures. I don’t want to look up in a few years and wish I’d thought ahead or explored life more fully. Today is big and little, dream and mundane, hope and peace.

November 12th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Promises Kept

We met Adelay at 24 hours old. We didn’t get custody until 48 hours, and during that exhausting 24-hour period we were strong for each other and for her. The NICU nurses referred to us as “mom” and “dad” but we knew it could always be different, that maybe this little perfect person wouldn’t actually be ours, even though she’d captured our hearts.

When we checked out of the hospital and had official custody, we relaxed a little. We started making promises to her – in the wee hours of the morning when she was lonely or hungry or scared – we would sit in the dark and rock her back to sleep, whispering, “I’m here, baby girl. I’ve got you, you’re OK.”

We’ve continued to promise our love and protection and hope to her over the last few months. We’ve told her how beautiful she is, how loved she is, how we aren’t going anywhere.

We finalized the adoption two days ago, and suddenly those promises feel different – everything feels different. Because now we can make promises that are within our power to keep – no judge or lawyer or social worker can alter our relationship to her. Now, when we whisper, “I’m here, baby girl,” we know that we are here, and so is she, for the rest of our lives, that we get to be a family with no lingering worries and no qualifiers.

Because that’s what family is – isn’t it? We all have friends that we say we “love like family”, and all we mean by that is that we won’t give up on them. We can’t be hurt enough to make us turn our backs, we can’t be annoyed enough to not call, we can’t be repulsed enough to ever stop praying for them. Family is love, no matter what. Through any circumstance or difficulty, through any discomfort or disagreement or hurt feelings, we still love them, because they’re family. This why God uses the illustration of adoption and family (children of God) to describe us – he loves us even when we are huge disappointments, when we make epic mistakes, when we have tantrums in the middle of Target or run continuously late or forget to wipe our feet at the door. This is the promise we made to Addy – to be here, to be family, to love no matter what life does next. Now we get to keep that promise and it is such an honor.

Today I’m grateful for promises kept – for how God loves us and how we get to love each other. I’m grateful that we get to make these promises to our baby girl; what a privilege it is to promise our love, to whisper her name and sooth her cries as only mommy and daddy can.

September 14th, 2015 by Dani

Drips and Storms

A while back I wrote about the “drip, drip, drip of unmet expectations” on this adoption expedition. I have tried to come up with other metaphors but have roundly failed – the only way to describe the utter spareness and ache of our long wait of adoption is by the image of water dripping on a rock: endless, cold, damp, incessant. Yet, despite that dreary picture, it’s not all there is, because all around the rock life is blooming – there’s a fern bending over the beleaguered stone, there are flowers poking up beside, there’s moss and trees and lovely sounds and smells all around – the water that drips with such depressing insistence brings life and hope and beauty in its wake.

Now our baby girl is home. We have another month or so to go before finalization, but everything is progressing well. She is ours and we are hers in every way – I know what her cries mean, what makes her smile, when she’s hungry. She follows us with her eyes and responds to our voices. We have a daughter in the sense that every parent has a child – what a gift!

What started as a drip, drip, drip has become a thunderous storm. While I ached at the depressing spareness of the space between drips, now I gasp for air as water rushes full force over me. I am overjoyed at her presence and in love with her more every day, but then I sigh at the state of my kitchen or ache to get more accomplished at work and wonder if I’m an awful mom – the rain we prayed for came with a vengeance and I dare to want a sunny day instead?

What grounds me is the knowledge that only God brings water to my parched or drowning spirit. Only he makes either the desert, the drip or the flood worth living through, worth swimming across, worth celebrating. Because every mom – no, every person – feels this way. We ache for change and than once it arrives we ache again. I am more fulfilled as a wife and mother than perhaps any role I’ve had, and yet I still wonder what I should do with the other pieces of me, the creative side, the business owner side, the writer tapping away while the baby sleeps, yammering on about rocks and drips and whatnot.

I guess I just wanted to tell you that parenting is just as lovely and blossoming as I hoped it would be, that I am fulfilled and in love and oh-so-grateful. But there’s another side to this which every mom knows – that I worry about my girl. I am tired. I sometimes just want to write or work without watching the clock for when she will awake and need me again. It takes some getting used to, moving from a drip, drip to a Seattle winter, and I’m recognizing that the best way to find grace in a storm is to give it. So I’m going to marvel at this awesome baby girl. I’m going to watch in awe as Adam, arguably the best daddy on the planet, loves her so well. I’m going to rejoice and be glad and thank God for rain – and I’m going to wear my wellies and offer my umbrella to others, because I now know how it feels to need a little break from the wonderful rain now and then, and to need a friend to help you dance in it along the way.